Saturday, March 21, 2009

Questions about the near future in Homeless World Sacramento

Recent polical events may manifest as successful at kicking the can down the road until midyear. By then, the media buzz will have buzzed off somewhere else.

If the mayor succeeds at increasing the bed count and extending the duration of Overflow shelter [and, likely, this is as good as achieved] and getting temporary camping ground at Cal Expo [this seems difficult, but perhaps it's been done behind the scenes], then Tent City, east of Loaves & Fishes on property belonging to SMUD and Union Pacific, can be rousted, fences can be put in place, and all the media hoopla may be but a blip in the history of Sacramento, a rather-strange web of events and tangle of stories that came and went and signified nothing.

But in the middle of this year, long after Big Media have completely forgotten us, homeless people will still be living in Sacramento and will be needing services, including "places to be," and means to repair their damaged lives.

Let's look at how, recently, the worm has turned. In today's paper, Cynthia Hubert, the Bee's homelessness reporter, writes about Dreher Street residences' impatience with the homeless who use the street as their path in and out of the camp community. Hubert calls the encampment "Sacramento's notorious tent city" in her story. The homes on Dreher Street number exactly nine.

I don't doubt that a huge increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the short street, and the often-boorish behavior of many homeless people, will disrupt the quiet that residents were accustomed to. I don't doubt for a minute that there's a problem here that needs to be addressed.

But we should all be aware that Tent City was never organized and never got to the point of a needs assessment and never got to a stage where becoming permanent, in some configuration at that location, felt like it was truly within reach.

The rug is getting pulled out from under Tent City and we should wonder what the Powers that Be are up to. Are they just wanting all the media attention to go away, because the true business of a city is attracting business? What business would want to put a branch or storefront in Sacramento if what comes to the public's mind when the city's name is mentioned is, gulp, homeless people?

Making the story go away means making Tent City go away. So long as Tent City is there, or anywhere on county property, the snoopy media of the world will be interested in developments. Tent City, Sacramento, is iconic. Tent City must die.

Tent City is like Howard Beale in Network. It needed to be killed because of the damage it was doing to the network's/city's ratings, so that's been arranged.

In the future, interest in Homeless World Sacramento may be as intense as interest in Vanilla Ice. And prospects for homeless people in Sacramento relaunching their lives may be only as good as Vanilla Ice getting good reviews for his next album.

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